Two months ago I was sat in front of Netflix. Exercise meant flicking through the shows. My thumb was superfit!

Today, I’ve just completed a 5k run. So what happened? How did I do that?

The answer is at the core of what it means to be an exceptional leader.

In my coaching practice, I see the distraught look when leaders think of problems they face.

One leader desperately looked me in the eye and told me how his staff aren’t motivated.

Of course, such labels are only ever partly true.

What he really meant is that they are often not motivated, or sometimes not motivated. Maybe even mostly not motivated.

The juice lies in those gaps between always and often.

“Tell me about a time when they were motivated?” I asked.

His eyes lit up.

Within moments he was telling me about a time when they stayed late, until after midnight. It was difficult to get them to go home.

Now that’s motivation!

He was now connected to what gave his team the purpose to feel enthused by their work.

He no longer had a problem. He had an answer that was already proven.

To be an exceptional leader is to look for these exceptions.

Problems are never universal. The thing that you want will usually be happening to some extent.

When I was beating myself up about my undisciplined running, I asked myself the same question.

“Tell me about a time when you did run and kept it going?”

I thought back to when I’d picked a target date, picked a cause, and asked my friends to sponsor me. It worked.

I had found the exception, so I used it again.

Check out the exceptions in your own world. The answers to your problems lie within.

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